World-leading renal and diabetes expert Professor Toby Coates is changing the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes by bringing a new pancreas transplant procedure to Adelaide.
Previously, the procedure had only been offered in Melbourne or Sydney. Today, thanks to the work from Prof Coates and his team at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, this procedure is now available in South Australia for patients with diabetes suffering severe complications.
A pancreas transplant is a procedure that places a healthy pancreas from a deceased donor into a person whose pancreas no longer functions properly.
If a pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, blood sugar levels rise to unhealthy levels, resulting in type 1 diabetes.
“Pancreas transplants are undertaken to treat type 1 diabetes, offering a potential cure for this disease, however the side effects can be quite significant,” Prof Coates said.
“By offering this procedure in Adelaide, it will be helping many more patients, relieving the burden of them having to travel interstate for this invasive operation.
“I know many patients who require this procedure but haven’t received it because of it being interstate.”
Four patients have benefitted from the procedure in Adelaide so far, with a fifth on the waiting list. One successful recipient was 55-year-old Sally Stavrinakis, who was living with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years.
“I was diagnosed when I was just 24-years-old; it was very scary and a big shock – I didn’t know anything about it at the time and had no family history,” Sally said.
“The last 30 years has been a long, hard road. Living with diabetes has many lows and complications. I couldn’t live a normal life and the last two years I was on dialysis three times a week, which was very difficult for me and my family.”
Sally had been on the transplant list for a kidney and pancreas for over four years and she was told she would have to travel to Monash, in Melbourne, to receive the invasive operation.
Thankfully, by the time Sally received the life-changing phone call in November last year, the option to receive the transplant in Adelaide was available and she underwent the six-hour operation.
“Being able to have the operation in my hometown meant that my family, especially my two daughters, could support me through my recovery where I had to spend a month in hospital. It would have been extremely difficult if I was interstate.”
Today, Sally is now living diabetes free and is excited to live her life and do things she was held back from due to her health.
“Instead of just staying alive I can now live my life. I don’t have to worry about my sugar levels or pricking my finger so many times a day. I can now travel and make memories with my family. I am so grateful for this operation – I’ve finally got my life back!”
Prof Coates’ life-changing research is proudly supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Group through our charity Kidney, Transplant & Diabetes Research Australia.